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Top 10 Tips to Improve Your Tennis Game

By Gregory Prudhomme, PhD, Camelback Village Health Club, Director of Tennis

Tennis is truly the ‘sport for a lifetime’. Not only is tennis extremely fun, but it provides many social, mental, and physical benefits. The sport promotes healthful exercise, tactical thinking, challenge, and spending time with friends and family. Another element that adds to the enjoyment of tennis is improving your game. When most people think of improving their tennis game, they often simply think of improving their technique. Although better technique is helpful to playing good tennis, there are numerous other ways to make improvements. Read below for 10 tips to improve your tennis game and add to more fun on the court:

1. Tennis Lessons

Athleticism, emulating other good tennis players, and repetition can certainly help improve your game, but lessons from a tennis teaching professional will help with learning the important fundamentals of tennis that include technique, tactics, strategy, mental skills, positioning, and more. You can find an experienced tennis pro at the Villages!

2. Technique

You will learn from reading this list that there are many areas in which you can improve your tennis game beyond tennis technique, but technique is still very important. Getting technical instruction from a tennis professional can help ensure that you are using fundamentally sound technique for all of your tennis strokes. Learning the proper technique will help prevent injury, improve accuracy, increase consistency, add spin, and increase power. Adding these elements to your strokes adds to the fun of the game!

3. Percentage Tennis

In addition to tennis technique, there are rules of tennis tactics based on physics, geometry, and data that are very important to know and integrate into your tennis play. Following these rules will reduce unforced errors and help to play with more purpose. Some basic percentage tennis principles include using good net clearance, aiming shots far from the lines, and hitting crosscourt more often than down the line. Be sure to pay close attention when your coaches are discussing percentage tennis and shot selection in your lessons and clinics. Knowing when to hit what is a crucial aspect of good tennis.

4. Court Positioning

A tennis player with average strokes in good positioning can beat a player with good strokes in average positioning. If you’ve ever felt like the better player, but still lost, it could be because your court positioning is working against you. Be sure to serve from the proper position, prepare for groundstrokes in the proper position, and volley from the proper position at net. General rules include serving from near the center of the court in singles while serving from closer to the sidelines in doubles. Prepare for groundstrokes a step or two behind the baseline and prepare for volleys approximately halfway between the net and service line. Additionally, there are defensive and offensive positions on the court that a player must know to be well-rounded. Ask your coach to analyze your positioning next time you play.

5. Off-Court Training

If all things are equal between tennis players’ level of play and experience, the player who does more off-court training will win most of the time. There are countless areas in which tennis players can spend time to become better and to help win more often. These include cardiovascular endurance, agility, speed, strength, flexibility, and reactions. Talk to your tennis coach and see a fitness trainer to come up with a customized plan for you.

6. Serve Practice

Rod Laver said, “A tennis player is only as good as his or her second serve.” In other words, someone with a good second serve is a good tennis player and someone with a weak second serve might be a weak tennis player. A second serve must be reliable and not easy to attack by the opponents. When this is the case, players can hit their first serve with less pressure, which leads to winning more service points, winning more service games, and then returning serve more relaxed. Serving is one of the strokes we can practice ourselves. Go to the courts 15 minutes early a few times a week and serve a basket of balls. It won’t take long to experience better results.

7. Strategy

In addition to knowing how to play high percentage tennis, it is also important to know how to adjust your game plan when playing against different styles of opponents. As you know, you could play against the retrieving/lobbing styles, attacking players, or all-court players. There are many subtle tactics and adjustments that can be made to your game plan for different style opponents, but when playing against retrievers/lobbers don’t take the bait. It is important to get into the rally with these types of players as they win their matches due to their opponents’ mistakes. If you get into the rally rather than getting trapped into over-hitting, you can experiment with a variety of tactics such as using underspin, bringing them to the net, and hitting short balls

8. Mental Toughness

This really should be the first item on the list, but we do have to know what end of the racquet to hold and how to hit a ball as good starting points. Smart (and funny) tennis experts have often said that tennis is 90% mental and 10% psychological!  A great philosophy to have on the tennis court is that you are more mentally tough than your opponent. Your opponents might have great technique, they might be fit, they might be stronger, and they might be winning…but maybe they can’t close out the match or maybe they crumble when they lose the momentum.

If you believe this then you will continue to problem solve, you will stay positive, and you will never give up. Your philosophy will turn into a sound theory. Besides, it’s the close matches, the come-from-behind battles, and getting through adversity that provide us with more value and experience than the easy days. When all else is failing you can still give your best effort and keep a good attitude and things just might change.

9. Equipment

Are you using the right racquet, the right string, and the right tension for your game style? The weight, balance, and flexibility of a racquet are variables that can match or counter your game style. Additionally, the width, texture, and tension of your racquet string can be tuned to match your type of play. If you haven’t strung your racquet since before Covid then please take care of that right away. Likewise, if you’re using the same racquet you used before the millennium, then it’s time to treat yourself to an upgrade. 

Looser string tensions can help add power and spin, while tighter string tensions can add control. Using a string with texture can add spin and control, while using soft multifilament string can ease or prevent tennis elbow. Racquets that are head light help with maneuverability, especially for net players, while racquets that are evenly balanced or head heavy are helpful to add power from the baseline. Discuss your equipment with your tennis pro to make sure you are getting the most out of it. Other equipment items to consider adjusting, adding, or upgrading to give your game a boost could include shoes, socks, visors, hats, wrist bands, knee/arm braces, sunglasses, court towels, electrolytes, hydration, and more! Talk to your tennis professional or tennis director to get the best customized recommendations.

10. Win/Win Scenario

How often do you appreciate the joy of tennis? The quest for winning and playing well is commendable, but that should not outweigh the joy and benefits of playing the sport. Yes, playing well and winning can certainly add to the fun of playing, but a secret to playing well and winning more often is to not white-knuckle the performance. Wanting the win too much and striving for the perfect performance can backfire more than it can help. 

If you consciously decide that the worst thing that happens on the tennis court is that you will get healthful exercise, you will enjoy you partner or opponent’s company, and you will gain valuable experience, then you can’t lose. Using a win/win mindset is a winning formula for improving your performance and having fun. Tennis is a sport for a lifetime and if you are reading this then, chances are, you have already given yourself this precious gift…anything from here forward on the tennis court can only be a win.

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